“Revolutionary Nonviolence in Violent Times: 50 years since 1968”

Annual conference of the Peace & Justice Studies Association

September 27-30, 2018  

Arcadia University, Philadelphia, PA

Proposal Submission Deadline:

April 15, 2018

Violence in North America is endemic; its institutionalized -- structural, physical, psychological spiritual and emotional -- through the prison industrial complex, the military and police forces, proliferation of gun violence, poverty, racism, sexism, and some would argue capitalism itself. With the growth of hate groups in the US and Canada, increasing acts of violence against marginalized communities both by states and individuals, and a widening income gap, violence appears to be intensifying both locally and globally. Clashes abound with increasingly visible movements advocating for white supremacy, a growing frequency of violent interactions at political demonstrations, and recurrent debates between notions of ‘free speech’ and community self-defense. The current administration has demonstrated its failure to condemn violence by neo-Nazis and other racist forces while criminalizing acts which have historically been considered protected forms of political expression.

Yet, none of this is new. Fifty years ago, 1968, was a worldwide year of protest and revolution. Civil Rights movements in the US and Northern Ireland, student movements, anti-Vietnam war protests and anti-oppression struggles spread across the globe from France, Northern Ireland, Spain, to Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, and England. In the US, there were New York and Florida teachers' strikes, sanitation strikes in St. Petersburg, Florida and Memphis, and the growth of the Delano grape strike in California to name a few. This was contrasted with the violent assassination of Dr. King, and accompanying riots in Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, Louisville, New York, Pittsburgh, Washington, Wilmington, and elsewhere. The Chinese Cultural Revolution was underway, and South Africa reaffirmed its commitment to a violent Apartheid state. Wars raged in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Yemen, Oman, Portugal, Korea and Malaysia, as well as recent coups in Guatemala Panama, Peru, Mali, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and Iraq.

Both today and fifty years ago, violence and nonviolence were used as tactics as well as strategies. One might argue progress towards peace evades us. It isn’t particularly clear how to bring about sustainable change and progress. Are our notions and definitions of what constitutes violence and nonviolence oversimplified? What exactly has changed, if anything? What does revolutionary nonviolence, pacifism, and militancy look like then compared to now? How do we understand these terms and definitions today? How is revolutionary nonviolence expressed, practiced or utilized in this current political environment? What lessons and ideas still resonate? From the passive to the coercive, and from the Gandhian to the guerrilla, what are effective means of struggle today, and how are they different from the past?  

As peace scholars, practitioners, teachers, and activists, we are interested in hearing reflections, critical engagements, and historical analyses about these and related themes, especially those which consider the following three central areas:

Systemic and Historical Visions of the Nonviolence-Violence Continuum

Creating the Beloved Community: Solidarity and Engagement

Violence and Nonviolence in ‘Our’ Communities

Debate around defining nonviolence has typically been mired in a distinction between the likes of Gandhi and Gene Sharp, and those advocating something else. If the mainstream media insists on championing a false dichotomy between passive liberalism and active, militant, opposition, we need to be on the forefront challenging this narrative. We know it has never been as simple as choosing between ‘Martin and Malcolm’, but rather placing oneself on an ever-expanding continuum from ‘violence’ to ‘nonviolence’. It is time that we work to undo this simplistic frame, and to clarify what we mean when we say nonviolence today. If the field of Peace Studies fails to establish itself as both an advocate for change and a voice worthy of being heard, we risk relegating ourselves to irrelevance. This is a call for us to be engaged in the debates ongoing today in our classrooms, in the media, and in the streets, and to ask the challenging question: what is revolutionary nonviolence in 2018, 50 years after 1968?

Proposals will be considered from any field related to peace and justice studies such as African American Studies, Anthropology, Development Economics, Ecology, English, Gender Studies, Government, History, Indigenous Studies, International Relations, Justice Sciences, Peace Studies, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Social Movement Studies, Sociology, and so on.

Submissions from teachers, students, activists, youth, and first-time presenters as well as academics are welcome. The PJSA conference provides a welcoming environment designed to facilitate the sharing of work and ideas across disciplines.

Submissions may propose various formats, including:

Please submit your proposal by April 15, 2018, via this online form.

Registration is live on the PJSA site. If you are looking to register a group of faculty and students, we offer group rates at $200 per faculty/staff and $50 per students. In order to register via a 'group rate' please email Michael@peacejusticestudies.org and we will create a custom invoice to get your folks registered.

Participants will be informed of the committee’s decision by June, and the committee will publish a preliminary schedule in July. Details regarding registering (e.g. individual rates, group rates, etc.) can be found here.

All day pre-conference events and an evening keynote will be on September 27, with the main conference running September 28, 29 and 30.


For more information, contact info@peacejusticestudies.org or visit https://www.peacejusticestudies.org.